A dip in form that began before the suspension of football and continued well into Project Restart has left Premier League fans doubting Liverpool’s ability to repeat the success of last season, when they lifted their maiden Premier League trophy.
However, I believe this has led to the Reds being relatively underrated heading into the new campaign, even with a lack of first team signings ahead of the opening match against Leeds United this weekend.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have amassed 196 points across their last two campaigns, winning the Champions League alongside the top-flight title in the process. They have retained their star players with ease, and still have time to boost their squad with what would ideally be a quality midfield signing.
Their star-studded defence and front line have plenty of experience competing for the biggest prizes in football, and it will be business as usual when the 20/21 season kicks off.
Do not let last season’s drop in form fool you. At one point they led Manchester City by a whopping 25 points, and the league title was, in theory, wrapped up long before it was mathematically confirmed. When it matters, expect Liverpool to dominate.
2. Manchester City
Generally considered to be the favourites to win the Premier League this season, there are high expectations for Manchester City to significantly close the gap Liverpool opened last season.
Pep Guardiola will be driven by the failures of a disappointing campaign, which saw City whimper in the face of defending their title and once again drop out of the Champions League earlier than expected.
One of their main downfalls last season was their defence; the best example of the damage caused by Aymeric Laporte’s injury problems is Norwich City’s shock 3-2 win over the Citizens.
We will have to wait and see whether £41m centre-back Nathan Ake will provide what City’s defence needs, and until then Laporte should be considered a vital figure and will hope to remain injury-free.
Ferran Torres is a good addition to the midfield, while fans will hope to see Phil Foden rise to the occasion following David Silva’s departure, but I am honestly not sure whether enough has been done to close that monumental gap separating them from Jurgen Klopp’s men.
I expect it to be much closer this time round, but Liverpool edge it for me (this may change depending on City’s business for the rest of the transfer window).
For the last two seasons, Liverpool and Man City have been in a league of their own. If that is to change this time round, Chelsea appear to be the only gatecrash candidates.
A hefty transfer ban enabled the Blues to save up their pocket money, which they are subsequently splashing out all in one go to add some much needed talent and experience to their defence, as well as some potentially world class attacking reinforcements.
Timo Werner is widely expected to be among those chasing the golden boot, while Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz have earned their reputation as some of the brightest creative outlets in Europe.
Meanwhile, Ben Chilwell will hope to realise his potential at Stamford Bridge - having already established himself as (in my opinion) England’s best left-back - and Thiago Silva provides some much needed experience and leadership to what was a leaky defence last season.
This, paired with their immense squad depth, makes them the league favourites outside the obvious two, and Frank Lampard will be expected to nail down a Champions League spot this season.
Mikel Arteta’s arrival appears to have breathed a new lease of life into Arsenal, who will embark on their first full season with Pep Guardiola’s former assistant as their manager.
Despite David Luiz marshalling a leaky defence, and the Gunners finishing a lowly eighth-place, victory in the FA Cup hinted that brighter times are on the horizon.
Arsenal will be feeling confident heading into the new campaign, having kept Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in North London while adding some much needed improvements to the central-defence.
Gabriel Magalhaes looks to be a fine acquisition from Lille, while much is expected of teenage defender William Saliba.
Although their midfield appears to lack some depth in talent when compared to most of their rivals, a talented forward line and plenty of exciting young players to fall back on puts them in a positive position as they look to bounce back from one of their worst ever top-flight finishes last season.
(Unbiased prediction:) When looking solely at Manchester United’s first team, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that they could be outsiders in the title race. Their lack of depth in quality, however, holds them back.
Donny van de Beek is a good midfield addition, joining the talented Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba. Fred and Nemanja Matic remain serviceable options, while Scott McTominay has made a good first impression in the opening stages of his Red Devils career.
Elsewhere, though, signings are desperately needed. Beyond their fearsome front three of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood, Odion Ighalo does not exactly inspire the same level of confidence.
In defence, it is fair to say that Harry Maguire, at best, splits opinions within the football community, while the formerly fringe Chris Smalling could take Victor Lindelof’s place in the first team with relative ease, should he replicate his AS Roma form.
Even with the addition of van de Beek, fans are growing restless at the lack of improvements in other areas of the pitch. For a side who are accustomed to being linked with every star in football, there is too much talk and not enough action if they want to repeat their top four finish of last season.
(Biased prediction:) The Scum would do well to escape relegation.
A first full season under Jose Mourinho should see Spurs avoid the same level of turbulence that they endured last season, but on the face of it this still very much feels like Mauricio Pochettino’s team of players.
Matt Doherty represents solid business, while Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg should slot into the side well, yet the contingent of world class players at Tottenham remains relatively thin, and the gap left by the experienced Jan Vertonghen is left unfilled.
The Special One could well steady the ship, and potentially even take advantage of any frailties shown by Man Utd or Arsenal, but it will take time for the Spurs boss to make this team his own and return them to the Champions League places.
7. Wolverhampton Wanderers
A side that have won over the hearts of many football fans since their blistering return to the Premier League a couple of seasons ago, Wolves may find it harder than ever in their attempts to gatecrash the top six.
There are still pieces missing from the jigsaw, with their midfield looking particularly light in numbers, but retaining the core of their team this summer has convinced me that they are capable of keeping up their impressive displays this season, even if the loss of Doherty has hit them hard.
Keeping Raul Jimenez is the key to Wolves avoiding falling behind the lengthening queue of clubs threatening to leapfrog them in the table this season. The Juventus-linked striker is among the best in English football, particularly with Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves behind him.
Having performed so well in their last Premier League campaign, despite their arduous, year-long Europa League journey, I am confident Wolves can match the domestic success of the last two seasons.
Ever the underperformers, Everton would welcome the change of scene that could arise as a result of their impressive transfer business.
The arrivals of Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure and James
Bond Rodriguez have added some serious talent to a midfield and attack already populated by the likes of Andre Gomes, Richarlison and Dominic-Calvert Lewin.
While the out-of-form Jordan Pickford and a somewhat unreliable defence stops me short of placing the Toffees above Wolves, a strong top half finish is expected as a result of Carlo Ancelotti’s first full season in charge.
While not enduring the same struggles as us Leeds fans, Southampton supporters still cling onto memories of the times before they became Liverpool’s feeder club. Thankfully for the Saints, many are anticipating Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side to be this season’s dark horses.
Danny Ings has finally released his inner Rickie Lambert and strike partner Che Adams looks to have finally adapted to the step up from the Championship, while James Ward-Prowse and Stuart Armstrong are part of an underrated midfield.
While Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was a solid option, the general consensus is that he fits Mourinho’s ideology at Spurs more than he did at St. Mary’s.
The permanent signing of Kyle Walker-Peters makes for good reading, and has left followers of the south coast club optimistic for the season ahead. And as a firm lover of underdogs, I hope they can match their potential.
10. Leicester City
Having beaten Southampton 9-0 last season, it feels cruel to predict Leicester finishing below them this time round, but the odds are against the Foxes building on their fifth-placed finish.
Europa League football could stunt their recovery from a severe drop in form during Project Restart, and injuries to three defenders including Ricardo Pereira and Jonny Evans - paired with the sale of Ben Chilwell - could highlight Leicester’s potential defensive frailties in the opening weeks of the campaign.
I sincerely hope that the 15/16 champions can prove me wrong, but further ambition needs to be shown by Leicester in the transfer market before I can consider them genuine candidates for a European qualification spot.
11. Sheffield United
Second season syndrome is a condition few recently promoted clubs are able to avoid, but falling short in their surprise challenge for Europe last season could be a blessing in disguise for Chris Wilder’s men.
The signings of Ethan Ampadu, Jayden Bogle and Max Lowe add some welcome competition in defensive areas, and the Blades still feel capable of shutting out the top sides in the division.
And with no European football to adapt to or to distract from the league, I do not expect Sheffield United to fall too far behind last season’s impressive ninth-placed finish.
Operating under one of the division’s most underrated managers in Sean Dyche, Burnley’s top half finish in the Premier League last season was no accident.
Along with Sheffield United, the Clarets contain some of the best defensive talent outside the top six, and their old fashioned approach to top-flight football makes them a frustrating opponent for more technically gifted sides.
Their strikeforce is arguably just as effective as their defence, with Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes forming one of the more effective attacking duos in the division. And just as Wood consistently hits double figures, I anticipate Burnley’s consistency will land them a very reasonable finish.
On an unrelated note, the clash between Wood and Koch will be one to keep an eye out for. Will the former be able to penetrate Leeds’ defence, or will the latter prove too hard for Burnley to erect any chances? Okay, I’ll stop.
13. Leeds United
The day is almost upon us. Leeds United will be playing Premier League football, against reigning champions Liverpool no less, tomorrow (at time of publication).
Optimistic supporters are adamant the Whites can immediately gatecrash the top six, while those less fond of the club have us down as relegation fodder.
Somewhere between the two feels the most natural prediction for Leeds, whose efficiency under Marcelo Bielsa is being severely underrated by some Premier League fans unfamiliar with the Argentine boss.
Robin Koch should be more than capable of replacing Ben White, while Rodrigo offers immense creative talent as well as an upgrade on Patrick Bamford. Further signings, particularly that of Rodrigo de Paul, would solidify this prediction.
The lack of squad depth, while perhaps a concern in one or two positions, is something that we are well equipped to deal with; Bielsa operates with a small squad, and has the pickings of an ever-improving U23s side when in need of backup players.
In truth, this may be one of the more optimistic predictions without further signings - Pablo Hernandez cannot last forever after all - but there is definitely an air of confidence and expectation surrounding a club who have always felt out of place below England’s top tier.
14. Newcastle United
Despite being a club in turmoil off the pitch, with plenty of takeover drama keeping fans stressed during the pandemic, things on the pitch are looking rather rosy for Newcastle as we approach the start of the new season.
Namely, it is the arrival of Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson - for a combined £20m - that convinces me the Magpies can avoid any serious flirtations with the relegation zone this season.
The pair were among the most productive in the Premier League during their time together at Bournemouth, with Fraser being linked with Liverpool while Chelsea seriously considered acquiring Wilson.
Joining forces at St. James’ Park will only bring the best out of their teammates, particularly Allan Saint-Maximin, who will now have a clinical striker ready to finish off his chances along with an assist king to provide him with goalscoring opportunities of his own.
15. West Ham United
This may be the prediction that comes back to bite me; West Ham are a poorly run club who are at odds with their fans and have flirted with relegation for some time now.
However, the chance remains for them to rise above their rivals in the bottom half of the table. With Felipe Anderson, Andriy Yarmolenko, Michail Antonio, Sebastian Haller, Jarred Bowen, Manuel Lanzini, Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice among the current roster, all it takes is for two or three of them to hit their stride for the Hammers to recover from a difficult run of opening fixtures.
It would not surprise me if they spent some time in the relegation zone, but the resolve they showed last season in avoiding the drop means that I can see them earning a slightly more comfortable finish than in 19/20.
Following the Ben White transfer saga, Brighton are not the most popular club among Leeds fans, but shrewd transfer business and a clear defensive focus from manager Graham Potter should see them avoid the drop.
White joins new signings Jan Paul van Hecke and Joel Veltman in central-defence, along with Chelsea target Lewis Dunk and £20m Adam Webster.
Tipped to play five at the back, the Seagulls could be looking to compensate for the gulf in quality between themselves and some of the bigger Premier League sides, while still utilising their easy-on-the-eye brand of football.
Australia international goalkeeper Mathew Ryan was a Fantasy Premier League favourite last season, while Adam Lallana adds some quality experience to an attack spearheaded by the clinical Neal Maupay.
As much as I’d love the opportunity to pinch White back from a relegated Brighton at the end of the season, I do not see them going down.
17. Aston Villa
Having undergone an immense transformation following their promotion to the Premier League two seasons ago, things feel slightly more settled at Aston Villa, with Ollie Watkins and Matty Cash representing some quality acquisitions from the Championship.
A new goalkeeper is still required, but the squad is generally well balanced and I would not be entirely surprised if Villa finished slightly higher than this, or at least avoided relegation comfortably in comparison to last season’s close shave.
But my gut instinct tells me that more is needed to ensure the Villans can steer clear of another relegation scrap. Much may depend on Watkins’ ability to adapt to life in the Premier League after scoring 26 goals for Brentford in the second tier last season.
Dean Smith did not entirely convince me that he has what it takes to help his club progress beyond being relegation candidates every season. They should have what it takes to outperform the promoted sides (other than Leeds), however.
Slaven Bilic’s heartwarming embrace with Marcelo Bielsa last season means I sincerely hope West Brom avoid the drop, but having limped across the line to secure promotion on the back of a poor run of form does not convince me that they have what it takes.
Matheus Pereira, a star performer in the Championship, will likely be needed to drag Albion across the line from time to time, while West Ham’s captain Mark Noble was livid to see Grady Diangana swap Ham for Brom, but their squad still screams Championship to me.
With only a small budget to work with, I cannot see them making the transfers required to ensure they are Premier League-ready.
19. Crystal Palace
My surprise pick for the drop, Crystal Palace were uninspiring on every occasion I watched them last season. I saw far from every game, but I saw them enough times to wonder if they had any ability to take a match by the scruff of the neck.
The Eagles failed to score more than twice in any of their matches across all competitions, while losing seven of their final eight Premier League fixtures.
Michy Batshuayi, Eberechi Eze and Nathan Ferguson are promising transfers, but Roy Hodgson seemed to hold Palace back last season, and did not impress supporters with his apparent refusal to give youngsters game time for the sake of experience.
Keeping Wilfried Zaha at Selhurst Park will go a long way to boost his side’s chances of survival, but unless Palace start showing some ambition in their performances, I am tipping them for the drop this season.
Two seasons ago, Fulham were relegated after spending over £100m on new players and completely changing the face of their first team squad. This time, a lack of Premier League quality makes it difficult to see the Cottagers slipping into the second tier once more.
The Londoners were not entirely convincing on their way to promotion from the Championship last season, and despite going unbeaten in their final seven games, losses against rivals Brentford and Leeds meant their chase for the automatic places fell short.
Last season’s loanees Harrison Reed and Anthony Knockaert are back as permanent players, suggesting the club have learnt from past errors by keeping their squad together, but genuine top-flight quality is stretched thin across the team and not many are convinced by Scott Parker’s managerial capabilities.
Kudos to them for beating local rivals Brentford when it mattered, and many who predicted Sheffield United to finish bottom last season may be more wary of their predictions this time round, but Fulham have a mountain to climb if they want to retain their Premier League status.
- Man City
- Man Utd
- Sheffield Utd
- West Ham
- Aston Villa
- West Brom
- Crystal Palace
Do you agree with my predictions? Where do you think Leeds will finish in the 20/21 Premier League table? Let us know @ThruItAllLUFC